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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

GovGab Turns One!

A tip of the FGI hat to GovGab blogger Jacob. He reminded me that this coming week the GovGab blog celebrates its first birthday.

The GovGab blog is brought to you by the same agency that brings us usa.gov, which I find as staggeringly useful as others find the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

To celebrate this first birthday, each of the GovGab bloggers will blog about what the U.S. was like when they turned 1 year old. This sounds like fun. Since I’m subscribed to their RSS feed, I’ll get to see every entry. How about you?

When is an agency not an agency?

There can hardly be a more basic government-documents question than one that asks you to identify a government agency. But recently, politics, secrecy, and corruption have made it difficult to determine even what should be obvious and unambiguous.

The most visible case of confusion, of course, is that offered by Vice President Dick Cheney in his resistance of routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information: He says that he need not disclose information to the National Archives Information Security Oversight Office because he is not part of the executive branch. (Agency Is Target in Cheney Fight on Secrecy Data, by Scott Shane, New York Times, June 22, 2007)

But this is not the only instance of confusing categorization and re-categorization of agencies. Two more than were in the press recently:

  • The Bush administration is arguing that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) because it is not an "agency" as defined under FOIA even though the White House Web site (as of August 22) listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law. The Office of Administration responded to 65 FOIA requests last year and has its own FOIA officer. The Justice Department argues that past behavior is irrelevant. (White House Declares Office Off-Limits, by Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 23, 2007; pA04)
  • A U.S. District Judge overturned a jury award in a suit brought by a former whistleblowing FBI agent against a company accused of filing fake invoices in Iraq saying that the plaintifs failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government. (Iraq Corruption Whistleblowers Face Penalties, The Associated Press, Aug 25, 2007)

Feds are blogging, are they listening?

Update 6/24/2007 – The incredible efficient folks at usa.gov have added the Future Digital System blog to their blog directory, which I hope will expose GPO’s efforts to more citizens and allow for a broader range of input than just contractors and docs librarians.

The usa.gov folks added the blog a few days ago, I just haven’t gotten around to mentioning it. So if you see a federal blog that should be on their list, notify them with the confidence that they are responsive.

Now for the original post:
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The federal portal USA.gov has started a new page of government agency blogs at
http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml. The list currently stands at ten active blogs, although I know they are missing at least one because they don’t have GPO’s FDSys Blog at http://fdsys.blogspot.com. I have reported this oversight to USA.gov and hopefully one of our GPO readers will contact USA.gov directly.

The blogs are from a range of agencies and I was a little surprised to find that a majority allow for “blog-standard” commenting. A seventh blog, Pushing Back from the Office of National Drug Control Policy surprised me by at least accepting comments on blog entries, but these seem to be mailed to ONDCP staff and never seen by the public.

Rather than rant against the agencies that run blogs without public feedback, let’s celebrate the agencies that understand that Web 2.0 is about interaction:

So let’s applaud the agencies who understand and hope the rest will follow. While FGI might highlight a government blog or two in postings, we do not intend to start our directory. If you know of blogs not on the USA.gov list, please tell them.

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